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I Make Myself Unimportant: A Symposium on the Life and Work of Ryszard Kapuściński

ISSUE:  Winter 2008
I make myself unimportant. I make myself seem not worthy of the bullet. Who am I? I’m just nothing. Why would you kill me?
Ryszard Kapuściński to Salman Rushdie

Ryszard Kapuściński was a visionary journalist, a world-besotted fabulist, and one of the great travelers of the twentieth century—a true heir to his hero, Herodotus. Kapuściński was a living link between Bruno Schulz and Gabriel García Márquez, and a year after his death the writing community continues to mourn his loss and celebrate his life. The following tributes, collected by Lawrence Weschler from various sources—including the pages of the Kraków newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny; the New Symposium in Paros, Greece; and a tribute to Kapuściński at the New York Festival of International Literature, held at the New York Public Library—are a but a sampling of the international outpouring.

Little wonder. Kapuściński’s work stretched around the world and often bravely chronicled the last, chaotic days of rulers: Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie in The Emperor; Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, in Shah of Shahs; and the fall of the Soviet system in Imperium. Between 1958 to 1976 alone, the period covered in The Soccer War, he reported on twenty-seven revolts. All the while, we discover in Kapuściński’s memoir Travels with Herodotus, he kept with him a copy of the ancient Greek historian’s writings, often seeing the sad parallels between the ancient world and the modern. But Kapuściński never gave up on humanity, and thanks to his remarkable work, neither do we.


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